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Eating Like It’s The Endtimes

December 3, 2007

Sometimes, like the first of the month, I just want to blow all my money on dinner.  These nights are often quite fun, occasionally magical, and come with all the baggage and regret of a good, solid hangover the following day. 

This past Saturday was such a night, and I spent it at Fig.  When you are the youngest party in the room by 20 years or more, and the establishment you are patronizing is a one syllable word, it’s a good idea to eat at the bar.  I’ll explain my reasons later. 

Fig in all of its dimlit glory is a romantic getaway at best, a warm and bustling upscale cafe where the frumpy couple in the UT sweatshirts and the bourgoisie art patrons tuxed out and fresh from a gallery opening can mingle in comfort.  My initial disappointment was that the menu I had read on the website did not mirror the menu before me in the restaurant.  When I have made the choice to spend so much money on dinner, I read the menus online before making my dining choice, so as to insure complete gastronomical achievement, even ecstacy.  If I’m disappointed and my meal was over fifty dollars, well that’s just silly of me and I would have been happier buying a goat for someone on Heifer.  But for truly fabulous food, there is no price too high. 

So when I did not recognize the menu of the day from my research, something didn’t feel right.  I later found they do not have a website, and the link I include here is not up to date.  But there I was, although none of their menu options jumped out at me.  I was not about to drop over $20 on macaroni and cheese, nor was I interested in a $12 burger.  The salads were uninspired:  a celery and goat cheese salad thrilled no one, from what I observed. 

I ordered only the specials of the day.  Their sunchoke soup with oysters sauteed in butter tasted heavenly.  I don’t know that I detected any of the touted sunchoke flavor among the heavy cream, butter, oysters, and butter, but otherwise I happily scooped up my plump oysters with cream and apologized to my arteries.  Towards the end of the soup, I was really missing a vegetable flavor of some kind, and I think a stronger vegetable would have improved the taste, like maybe some root vegetables, asparagus, or even artichoke. 

My partner-in-crime ordered the simple salad, which turned out to be a depressing selection of bitter greens, some walnuts scattered on top and a randomly bland dressing.  For Fig, this should have been one heck of a salad, and I considered sending it back.  Not wanting to cause a scene, we clamped our mouths shut and drank our wine.  The Pinot Grigio they offer by the glass was overpriced compared to other Asheville restaurants, but it truly was the perfect glass of wine.  Full, crisp and light with citrus notes toward the end that did not dampen my tongue with sweetness.  The DJ ordered a stellar merlot, the cheapest one they had, and his selection melted in my mouth with a rich, velvety texture and mild, dark chocolatey-cherry flavors.

Our entrees were more impressive.  I ordered the special:  Striped sea bass with chantarelle mushrooms, celery root, and chestnuts.  I prefer my dinner sectioned rather than piled, so I wasn’t crazy about the presentation.  The mushrooms were sparse and still kind of dried.  I loved the fish, though, it was sauteed like a dream and extremely substantial.  Chestnuts dotted the plate and offered a welcome smokiness; this was a sucessful dish overall.  The DJ got the farfalle bolognese, and fell in love.  Simple, creamier than most bolognese I’ve had, this was total comfort food. 

While we considered the lengthy dessert menu, our server slipped us two glasses of wine which had been declared, “mistakes.”  The Pinot Noir wasn’t nearly as complex as the Merlot, but the price was right and the transaction made us feel special enough to order not one but two desserts.

The pot d’ creme tasted cold and sweet, but lacked a bitter complexity I find even in Greenlife’s pot d’ creme.  It came with a chocolate cookie, a completely unnecessary addition to a mediocre dessert. 

Unfortunately, I allowed myself to be talked in to a celery tart.  It tasted like breakfast.  The only thing worse than breakfast food for dinner is breakfast for dessert.  After forcing down most of this basically quiche-like attempt at a savory dessert, I wanted to go out for ice cream. 

Overall a good time was had, mostly due to the outstanding but painfully high-priced wine selection.  My advice:  call first and find out the menu of the day before venturing out to Fig.  Some nights are better than others, and often their daily specials are the only reason to add them to your Asheville dining experience.  I have yet to try lunch there, but I’m looking forward to it. 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2007 8:33 am

    I’m so glad you got to Fig. I have only ever been for lunch and would definitely recommend you follow up for an afternoon visit. When the weather is mild it is lovely to sit out in the little courtyard. I love the vibe inside – it reminds me of the Tratorria before it moved into its current steakhouse setting.

    So, yes, a simple lunch is much cheaper (I like the Ploughman very much) and, if you’re lucky, you can also get the most sublime dessert I’ve ever had that didn’t involve chocolate: a poached pear.

    And I’m so glad you linked to Heifer! It’s my favorite organization and at this time of year, in lieu of presents, our family always pitches in for a couple of farm animals.

  2. December 5, 2007 9:49 pm

    Today is my mom’s birthday and she came into town and wanted to go somewhere special and I didn’t hesitate to recommend Fig. I don’t have time to document all of the tastiness, and mostly just have the minute to clear up some errors in my previous comment. You probably knew this, but I meant La Caterina when I mentioned the Tratorria. Today at Fig it was too windy to sit outside (the courtyard is like a wind tunnel on blowsy days), but since it was close to 2 pm when we arrived and we were the only folks in the joint we got to enjoy the quiet jazz with our conversation and got exceptional service.

    And earlier I said “Ploughman” but it’s the “Pauper” lunch which is such a good deal – soup with cheese covered chunks of bread. The soup today was a pureed roasted root vegetable finished with fennel oil – just lovely. And then for desert the server informed me that they had *just* put the poached pear back on the menu. My mom got the chocolate mousse *brulee* that was also incredible.

    If you ever want to go back in the afternoon and need a companion – just give me a call and I’ll be there. Is there any felicity greater than a long, lingering lunch at a good restaurant with great company and a couple glasses of Pinot Grigio?

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